1 Now I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ; I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
I exhort you. The speech is abrupt, as is frequently the case with speeches uttered under the influence of strong feeling. The meaning is this: "I beseech you, nay more, I earnestly entreat you by the gentleness of Christ, not to compel me, through your obstinacy, to be more severe than I would desire to be, and than I will be, towards those who despise me, on the ground of my having nothing excellent in external appearance, and do not recognize that spiritual excellence, with which the Lord has distinguished me, and by which I ought rather to be judged of." The form of entreaty, which he makes use of, is taken from the subject in hand, when he says -- by the meekness and gentleness of Christ Calumniators took occasion to find fault with him, because his bodily presence was deficient in dignity,  and because, on the other hand, when at a distance, he thundered forth in his Epistles. Both calumnies he befittingly refutes, as has been said, but he declares here, that nothing delights him more than gentleness, which becomes a minister of Christ, and of which the Master himself furnished an example. Learn of me, says he, for I am meek and lowly. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29, 30.) The Prophet also says of him, His voice will not be heard in the streets: a bruised reed he shall not break, etc. (Isaiah 42:2, 3.) That gentleness, therefore, which Christ showed, he requires also from his servants. Paul, in making mention of it, intimates that he is no stranger to it.  "I earnestly beseech you not to despise that gentleness, which Christ showed us in his own person, and shows us every day in his servants, nay more, which ye see in me." Who in presence He repeats this, as if in the person of his adversaries, by way of imitating them.  Now he confesses, so far as words go, what they upbraided him with, yet, as we shall see, in such a way as to concede nothing to them in reality.
1 - "L'insolence et audace;" -- "The insolence and audacity."
2 - "Vne hardiesse d'vn vanterau;" -- "The boldness of a braggadocio." Thrasodeilia is a compound of thrasos (boldness) and deilia (timidity.)
3 - "Qu'il pense auoir toute authorite sur nous;" -- "That he thinks he has entire authority over us."
4 - "Auoit bien peu de dignite et maieste en apparence;" -- "Had very little dignity and majesty in appearance"
5 - "Il n'est pas nouueau a la pratiquer;" -- "He is no stranger to the practice of it."
6 - "En contrefaisant les propos qu'ils tenoyent de luy;" -- "By imitating the speeches that they uttered respecting him." -- See volume 1, p.65.
Now I Paul myself beseech you - I entreat you who are members of the church not to give me occasion for the exercise of severity in discipline. I have just expressed my confidence in the church in general, and my belief that you will act in accordance with the rules of the gospel. But I cannot thus speak of all. There are some among you who have spoken with contempt of my authority and my claims as an apostle. Of them I cannot speak in this manner; but instead of commanding them I entreat them not to give me occasion for the exercise of discipline.
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ - In view of the meekness and mildness of the Redeemer; or desiring to imitate his gentleness and kindness. Paul wished to imitate that. He did not wish to have occasion for severity. He desired at all times to imitate, and to exhibit the gentle feelings of the Saviour. He had no pleasure in severity; and he did not desire to exhibit it.
Who in presence - Margin, In outward appearance. It may either mean that when present among them he appeared, according to their representation, to be humble, mild, gentle 2-Corinthians 10:10; or that in his external appearance he had this aspect; see on 2-Corinthians 10:10. Most probably it means that they had represented him, as timid when among them, and afraid to exercise discipline, however much he had threatened it.
Am base among you - The word used here (ταπεινὸς tapeinos) usually means low, humble, poor. Here it means timid, modest, the opposite of boldness. Such was formerly the meaning of the English word base. It was applied to those of low degree or rank; of humble birth; and stood opposed to those of elevated rank or dignity. Now it is commonly used to denote that which is degraded or worthless; of mean spirit; vile; and stands opposed to that which is manly and noble. But Paul did not mean to use it here in that sense. He meant to say that they regarded him as timid and afraid to execute the punishment which he had threatened, and as manifesting a spirit which was the opposite of boldness. This was doubtless a charge which they brought against him; but we are not necessarily to infer that it was true. All that it proves is, that he was modest and unobtrusive, and that they interpreted this as timidity and lack of spirit.
But being absent am bold toward you - That is, in my letters; see on 2-Corinthians 10:10. This they charged him with, that he was bold enough when away from them, but that he would be tame enough when he should meet them face to face, and that they had nothing to fear from him.
I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness - Having now finished his directions and advices relative to the collection for the poor, he resumes his argument relative to the false apostle, who had gained considerable influence by representing St. Paul as despicable in his person, his ministry, and his influence. Under this obloquy the apostle was supported by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; and through the same heavenly disposition he delayed inflicting that punishment which, in virtue of his apostolical authority, he might have inflicted on him who had disturbed and labored to corrupt the Christian Church.
Who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you - He seems to quote these as the words of his calumniator, as if he had said; "This apostle of yours is a mere braggadocio; when he is among you, you know how base and contemptible he is; when absent, see how he brags and boasts." The word ταπεινος, which we render base, signifies lowly, and, as some think, short of stature. The insinuation is, that when there was danger or opposition at hand, St. Paul acted with great obsequiousness, fearing for his person and authority, lest he should lose his secular influence. See the following verse.
Now (1) I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and (a) gentleness of Christ, who in presence [am] base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
(1) He returns to the defence of his apostleship, but in such a way that he uses his authority in his defence: for he warns them earnestly and gravely, using also terrible threatenings, to show themselves to be those who are able to be instructed. And he reviles certain proud men who made no better account of him, than of a bragging proud man, in that he used to be sharp against them when he was absent, because they saw no great majesty in him after the manner of men; and besides, he had proved his gentleness, even though in his absence he had written to them sharply. Therefore first of all he professes that he was gentle and moderate, but after the example of Christ: but if they continue still to despise his gentleness, he protests to them that he will show indeed how far they are deceived, who judge the office of an apostle in the same way that they judge worldly offices, that is, according to the outward appearance.
(a) That nature which is inclined to mercy, rather than to rigor of justice.
Now I Paul myself beseech you,.... The apostle having said what was necessary and proper to stir up the Corinthians to a liberal contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem, returns to the vindication of himself against the false apostles; and earnestly entreats the members of this church,
by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, not to regard their reproaches, and join with them in them; for did they but consider the meek and gentle deportment of Christ, so worthy of his and their imitation, they would see there was no reason to reflect on him for that part of his conduct, in which he followed his Lord and master; whose meekness was to be seen in the assumption of human nature, in the whole of his life and conversation, and in his sufferings and death; and his "gentleness" of Spirit to be observed in his coming into this world, not to judge and condemn it, but that the world might be saved; in bearing all indignities and insults, without being provoked to wrath and revenge; in rebuking his disciples for the severity of their spirits, declaring he came to save, and not take away the lives of men; in praying for his enemies, and in his silence under all the ill treatment he met with from the worst of men. As the apostle had this excellent example before him, which served both to regulate his conduct, and support him under the hard measures he met with, so he was desirous to direct others to the observance of it, which might be a check upon the ill usage of him. He here speaks of himself in the language of his adversaries, who meant by these characters to expose him to scorn and contempt: "I Paul myself"; whose name the false teachers played upon, it signifying "little"; and he being of little stature, they reproached him for it, and would insinuate, that as his name was "little", and his person mean, his bodily presence weak, and his speech contemptible, that he had a little soul, was a man of small knowledge, mean parts, and a very insignificant minister. Now it is as if the apostle should say, I am not ashamed of my name, nor of my person, and I am willing to own myself the least of the apostles, yea, less than the least of all saints; but I beg of you by the mild and gentle Spirit of my Lord and master, whom I am not ashamed to imitate, that you would not join in those sneers. I am Paul, the "same" in my principles and practice, in my doctrine and life, when present and absent; though my enemies say the contrary, as that I am such an one,
who in presence am base, or "humble among you": they suggested, that when he was at Corinth he was humble and modest in his conversation, mild and gentle in all his expressions and deportment; and which they interpreted of a meanness and baseness of spirit, as though he crept and cringed to curry favour with men, to avoid offence, and gain and keep an interest among them:
but being absent, am bold toward you; wrote blustering, hectoring, terrifying letters, threatening to come with his apostolic rod and deliver them up to Satan, to fright them into a compliance with him.
While others thought meanly, and spake scornfully of the apostle, he had low thoughts, and spake humbly of himself. We should be aware of our own infirmities, and think humbly of ourselves, even when men reproach us. The work of the ministry is a spiritual warfare with spiritual enemies, and for spiritual purposes. Outward force is not the method of the gospel, but strong persuasions, by the power of truth and the meekness of wisdom. Conscience is accountable to God only; and people must be persuaded to God and their duty, not driven by force. Thus the weapons of our warfare are very powerful; the evidence of truth is convincing. What opposition is made against the gospel, by the powers of sin and Satan in the hearts of men! But observe the conquest the word of God gains. The appointed means, however feeble they appear to some, will be mighty through God. And the preaching of the cross, by men of faith and prayer, has always been fatal to idolatry, impiety, and wickedness.
HE VINDICATES HIS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY AGAINST THOSE WHO DEPRECIATED HIM FOR HIS PERSONAL APPEARANCE. HE WILL MAKE HIS POWER FELT WHEN HE COMES. HE BOASTS NOT, AS THEY, BEYOND HIS MEASURE. (2Co. 10:1-18)
I Paul myself--no longer "we," "us," "our" (2-Corinthians 9:11): I who am represented by depreciators as "base," I, the same Paul, of my own accord "beseech you"; or rather "entreat," "exhort" you for your sake. As "I beseech you" (a distinct Greek verb, 2-Corinthians 10:2) for my sake.
by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--He mentions these graces of Christ especially (Psalm 18:35; Matthew 11:29), as on account of his imitation of them in particular he was despised [GROTIUS]. He entreats them by these, in order to show that though he must have recourse to more severe measures, he is naturally inclined to gentle ones after Christ's example [MENOCHIUS]. "Meekness" is more in the mind internally; "gentleness" in the external behavior, and in relation to others; for instance, the condescending yieldingness of a superior to an inferior, the former not insisting on his strict rights [TRENCH]. BENGEL explains it, "By the meekness and gentleness derived by me from Christ," not from my own nature: he objects to understanding it of Christ's meekness and gentleness, since nowhere else is "gentleness" attributed to Him. But though the exact Greek word is not applied to Him, the idea expressed by it is (compare Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 12:19-20).
in presence--in personal appearance when present with you.
base--Greek, "lowly"; timid, humbly diffident: opposed to "bold." "Am" stands here by ironical concession for "am reputed to be" (compare 2-Corinthians 10:10).
Now I Paul. Thus far in this epistle Paul has associated himself with Timothy (2-Corinthians 1:1) and his fellow-laborers. He has spoken in the plural. Now he uses the singular, and there will be seen in the 10th and 11th chapters a tone of severity contrasted with the gentleness and love of those that precede. Those chapters are addressed to the church which had as a body cleared itself of fault. There was, however, a faction who opposed him, who disparaged his claims as an apostle, and he now speaks for the benefit of these. This accounts for the change of style and tone. Since the opposition was to him personally, he speaks in person. I repeat what has been before said, that this opposition came mainly from the Judaizing Christians who thought Paul had gone wrong in not requiring Gentile Christians to come under the bondage of the Jewish law.
Who in presence am base. Lowly. His first letter had been stern (1 Cor. 5). The opposers said that he was very gentle when present, but bold when absent.
I beseech you. He asks that, when he comes, he may not have to exercise that boldness which he fears he will have to use in censuring some opposers. He desires that all may so act that he can be lowly and gentle when present.
As if we walked according to the flesh. Were led by worldly motives.
Now I Paul myself - - A strongly emphatical expression. Who when present am base among you - So, probably, some of the false teachers affirmed. Copying after the meekness and gentleness of Christ, entreat - Though I might command you.
*More commentary available at chapter level.